Date: August 20, 2019
Venue: County Ground, Bristol
The final edition of the Women's Cricket Super League is just past the mid-stage and two things stand out so far. One, the unbeaten run of Western Storm continues, and two, the losing streak of Lancashire Thunder has not been broken. The former find ways to win every match while the latter's reliance on one player is ruining their campaign.
In this back drop, Storm, sitting pretty at the top of the table on 26 points, face Southern Vipers in their seventh game of the season, in Bristol on Tuesday (August 20).
Storm has invariably found a new hero in every match they have played so far. It's a fact that speaks volumes of the talent their team possesses. Initially, it was Fran Wilson, Heather Knight and Freya Davies and in the latter part of their campaign, it has been the turn of Smriti Mandhana, Claire Nicholas and Rachel Priest. Their last match against Thunder brought Deepti Sharma into limelight. Sharma - unbeaten on 23 off 14 balls - displayed immense calmness and maturity beyond her years to take Storm to a five-wicket victory with one ball to spare. She controlled her attacking instincts and played calculative cricket, crashing the penultimate ball of the innings for a boundary to seal the win. The management would have been mighty impressed with her performance.
Storm will certainly finish on top of the points table and if any other team can come close, it is Vipers. They are placed second with 18 points, trailing Storm by eight.
Vipers are coming off a thumping win against Surrey Stars. Danielle Wyatt was the star as she literally tore apart Stars' bowling smashing the first ever century by an English player in the WCSL. Vipers thrashed Stars by a huge margin of 89 runs, bundling out Stars for a total of 89 - 21 runs less than Wyatt had scored on her own. Wyatt's ton would have eased the pressure on their star player Stafanie Taylor. She was shouldering the responsibility of their entire batting unit in their previous three matches.
Vipers' bowling was top-notch against Stars with everyone contributing to the wickets tally. Tash Farrant has been the standout bowler for them with ample support from Taylor and Amanda Wellington. All in all this clash between Storm and Vipers looks like it will be a tightly contested one.
The head-to-head record favours Storm 3-2. The most recent win came this year in the match eight when Storm beat them by five wickets. Vipers will be looking for revenge this time around.
The match was delicately placed at 94 for 2 in the 13th over when Thunder and Harmanpreet Kaur were looking to unleash their power game in the final few overs. Heather Knight turned to Davies for the wicket and she answered the call of her captain by removing the dangerous-looking Kaur for 50. The match swung in the favour of Storm as a late flourish was not possible for Thunder.
Vipers, too, have got few big hitters like Taylor, Suzie Bates and Wyatt in their ranks. It would be an interesting battle between the trio and Davies, who is the joint-highest wicket-taker so far in this edition of WCSL.
Great players find a way to score when the team needs it most and they peak at the right time in the tournament. Bates, the big-hitting Kiwi allrounder, has had a quiet tournament so far with not much to show in the bowling and batting department. With only 105 runs in five games, the teams have seemingly worked her out. Her 39 in the last game against Stars is Bates' highest in the season so far. The right-hander would certainly hope it is the start of things to come as she is one of the cleanest strikers of the ball going around at the moment.
The weather looks good on Tuesday with the temperature hovering around mid-20 degrees celsius. In their last match in Bristol against Lightning, they comfortably eased to a 40-run victory.
In this edition of WCSL, Storm have taken a special liking to chasing - winning five of their six matches whilst batting second.
Western Storm: Heather Knight (c), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Freya Davies, Dani Gibson, Ellie Mitchell, Claire Nicholas, Sophie Luff, Naomi Dattani, Amara Carr, Sonia Odedra, Alex Griffiths, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Deepti Sharma.
Southern Vipers: Tammy Beaumont (c), Dani Wyatt, Tash Farrant, Suzie Bates, Stafanie Taylor, Amanda Wellington, Charlie Dean, Maia Bouchier, Lauren Bell, Carla Rudd, Paige Scholfield, Thea Brookes, Marie Kelly, Issy Wong, Fi Morris.